Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Thank you messages from Rob Peacock and Keiko Willhite

Dear Pigate members,

Thank you so much for inviting us to join your meeting last Saturday. It was a pleasure to meet with so many enthusiastic, dedicated teachers and trainee teachers from a variety of backgrounds. I hope that the teaching ideas and materials which we presented on the day were useful and that everybody found some interesting concepts to bring into their classrooms.

Teacher group meetings are always a great chance to share ideas and experiences with other educators, and I certainly enjoyed being able to do so during the discussion sections of the workshop and during the break.

Thank you once again for such a warm welcome. I hope to have a chance to meet with you all again sometime soon.

All the best,
Rob Peacock


Dear PIGATE members,

Thank you very much for attending Rob’s presentation and taking a look at OUP books.

I had such a great time talking to everyone and hope that I will get a chance to meet you all again soon!

There are many links I would like to share with you that I hope will be helpful. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or requests.

Oxford Teachers' Club: By becoming a member you will get to download various handbooks and worksheets for free.


Graded Readers: You can find worksheets and handbooks on graded reading here:

For further information on graded reading, also check out the Extensive Reading Foundation:

With warmest regards,
Keiko Willhite
Contact me at: keiko.willhite@oup.com


Monday, February 16, 2015

Study in Ireland!

I just received the following information about four-week scholarships to study in Ireland for English teachers:
The Embassy of Ireland in Japan is pleased to announce the 2015 Ireland Scholarship for teachers of English working in Japan. Please find attached details. Application opening date is Saturday 21st February and the closing date is Friday 20th March.
For more information about this, please look at this and this.

"Special for" v. "special to": 3 to 6 or 16 to 14?

On a quick break between a family emergency and tests, I ran a few searches on the Compleat LexTutor site for phrases that someone had asked about at the PIGATE gathering on Sat., Feb. 14.

In a mega corpus of approx. 3 million words, here's what I found:
The mega corpus is approx. 2/3 British National Corpus (BNC: written + spoken).

A couple of bigger, slower searches of the BNC plus the larger Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA), approx. 14 million words in all, gave different results:

  • "Special" with "for" within a few words and words that repeat 1 word to the right of special:
    • for=16, interest=3, provisions=3, time=3, ...
  • "Special" with "to" within a few words and words that repeat 1 word to the right of special
    • to=14, interest=11, issue=10, attention=6, access=3, effort=3, permission=3, prosecutor=3, reference=3, way=3, ...

Though convenient findings like these may be inconclusive, since they don't directly compare the BNC to the COCA, perhaps the author of the textbook passage in question was inclined toward British usage. [As I recall, the next word after "for" or "to" was a pronoun ("special * her"?). Anyone keen to dig into that?]

[243 words]

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Feb 2015 Meeting: Rob Peacock from Oxford University Press

Rob Peacock from Oxford University Press was the main speaker at our meeting, held on 14 Feb, 2015 at KGU's English Lounge. He spoke on the topic of "Teaching English in English", fitting right in with the ETE (English Through English) special interest section of PIGATE!

And whatta crowd! 30 participants enjoyed Rob's 2 part presentation, first taking us through some great ideas for the classroom and then working through ideas in Extensive Reading.

Takaki sensei wrote the following:
Let me express my sincerest gratitude to you all for your great contributions to the Feb session of PIGATE. It was a big success, and I could tell that the participants really enjoyed the presentations, materials exhibition, and getting to know various people with different background. Rob's presentations were not just well-organized, but also informative, educational, and persuasive. Many participants told me that they learned much from them. It was also a very good thing that they
actually touched some OUP materials, talking with Keiko and discussing their concerns with her and among themselves. If possible we would really like to welcome you back to more PIGATE sessions in the future. Thank you once again. We look forward to seeing you again soon.
Rob will be sending me a post with all of the links he shared along with his powerpoint presentation, so rather than write a summary, I'll just end here and ask everyone who attended to write a short reflection on the session and what they learned. Thanks!

Grammar Monster

Looking for a site to point out to a student who had waited almost a year to inform me that (s)he didn't know what "title case" meant, I found Grammar Monster with a quick web search. Interestingly enough, the lesson page topped the glossary page for title case in the search and in ease of understanding.

The main entry began with a Quick Answer, and then a brief explanation that used a few words like articles and prepositions. Learners at first might want but not need explanations, because the both the lesson and glossary pages for title case gave examples of those parts of speech. 

The explanation on the lesson page could be simpler than it is, so I sent these suggestions to the site owner: "When writing a name or a title, it is . . . common . . . to . . . use capital letters [only] to start the . . . [main] words." (2015.02.15). Following the brief explanation, there were plenty of annotated examples of titles in title case–plus more notes in a sidebar to the right.

The site itself features five pages in a navigation bar on the home page:
  1. Common Grammar Errors
  2. Easily Confused Words
  3. Free Grammar Tests,
  4. Grammatical Terms
  5. Punctuation Lessons.
Grammar Monster also has a search page with cross-links to the most popular pages on site. So the site may be quite useful. That is, if you know what to look for, and if you are able to ignore the ads here and there, and the video clips playing over and over in the side bar.

[271 words]

Friday, February 13, 2015

Muppets Treasure Island - Cabin Fever

The Cabin Fever song from a 1996 Muppet movie is based on a classic adventure novel by Robert Louis Stevenson (Wikipedia, 2015, ¶1). The song has been burning inside my head for the past several days. So I decided to find a video clip that I could share here.

This song has been memorable not only because I love the Muppets, but also because the ship-board setting for the song in the video (Baker, 1996) contrasted so vividly with a snow-bound mountain cabin image that I've held from childhood adventures–including reading!

That is, my image related to the second definition of the noun (n.) cabin in WordNet 3.1, and the Muppet movie scene represented the first. As far as collocations go, "cabin fever" may not occur very frequently outside this song. Nevertheless, you may find it catching.

Doing a bit more browsing around the topic of cabin fever, I think I may have found a remedy, namely getting out and communing with nature (Berman, Jonides & Kaplan, 2008). Perhaps that's what I should be doing now, instead of planning another post!


Baker, Martin G., & Henson, Brian (Producers), & Henson, Brian (Director). (1996). Muppet treasure island [Motion picture]. United States: Jim Henson Productions.

Berman, M. G., Jonides, J., & Kaplan, S. (2008). The Cognitive Benefits of Interacting with Nature. Psychological Science, 19(12), 1207–1212. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02225.x

Wikipedia. (2015, February 11). Muppet Cabin Fever. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muppet_Treasure_Island

[241 words]

Friday, February 6, 2015

Feb 2015 PIGATE meeting: Teaching English in English: Grammar, Vocabulary and Extensive Reading in an All-English Classroom

The February meeting will be at Kumamoto Gakuen University (KGU) on Sat., 14 February, from 13:30-17:00, on the first floor of Building 11, in the English Lounge.

Rob Peacock of Oxford University Press will on speak about Teaching English in English: Grammar, Vocabulary, and Extensive Reading, in an All-English Classroom.

Rob wrote (5 Feb 2015):
In this session, we will look at some practical ways to teach all-English classes to elementary, junior and senior high school students in Japan. We will start by brainstorming some methods of introducing classroom English, before dealing with the practicalities of teaching grammar and vocabulary without using translation. Finally, we will review the benefits of introducing an extensive reading program.
Rob currently works for Oxford University Press, and is an Oxford Teachers' Academy certified teacher trainer. He has spent many years in Japan, teaching students of all ages, as well as providing teacher support through workshops.

Hope you can join us!